Thinking about buying a used car out of state? You’re part of a trend. Buying a used car in another state is becoming increasingly common, with more people turning to P2P selling networks and online searches to buy a vehicle out of state.

However, in some ways, purchasing a car out of state is different from buying a car in your home state. You may be able to save money to find your ideal vehicle, but you could end up with higher costs and more headaches.

So, can you buy a car from another state? How do you go about it? Should you work with a dealership or a private seller?

Here’s everything you need to know about out-of-state vehicle purchases, the logistics, the benefits and pitfalls, and how you can make the process as smooth and stress-free as possible.

Why Buy a Car Out of State?

Buying a car online has many advantages. It opens up your options and improves your chances of finding the car of your dreams. This is particularly true if you’re in the market for rare or vintage models that aren’t available in your current market. You may also be able to get a better deal on a car that’s located in a different market. Additionally, if you’re interested in participating in an online car auction, you may find a great deal on a car in another state.

Can You Buy a Car in Another State?

Of course! There’s nothing preventing car buyers from shopping for vehicles in other states, but there are some laws and rules you need to follow. Different states have different laws, registration requirements, insurance, sales tax, and emissions testing requirements that you should be aware of.

One of the best ways to find great deals on cars in another state is through an online auction site. Car auctions can save you time, as you won't need to search for vehicles on your own. They also offer competitive bidding. This may lead to lower prices than you may find at car dealerships.

Another option is a car-buying website site, such as Hemmings and CarsDirect, which brings together buyers and sellers in one helpful platform.

Pros and Cons of Buying a Car Out of State

Pro #1: May Save Money

A major advantage of buying a used car from another state is that it may help you save money, perhaps hundreds or even thousands of dollars.

Many factors may affect a vehicle’s selling price, like demand. In addition, a vehicle’s value may fluctuate based on local and state economies. This means in some situations, you may find less expensive vehicles when you look outside of your state.

Keep in mind, though, that the sales tax you pay for your purchase will be based on the place where you register your vehicle, not where you purchased it.

To avoid overpaying for your desired car, check the Kelley Blue Book car value for the car’s make and model. If a seller is charging more than this value for their car, move on to another seller.

Pro #2: Wider Market

Another benefit of buying a used car from out of state is that you may be able to access more car features and models not available in your area.

For instance, you may more easily find automobile options featuring rare configurations when you shop online. You might also find a limited-edition vehicle, a rare vintage car, or a high-performance model manufactured in small numbers.

Let’s say you're looking for a convertible but there aren't many in the Midwestern state where you live. You may find the perfect sporty car in California or Florida when you shop online. Better yet, this car may not have accrued damage from inclement weather and salt like a Midwestern car has.

Pro #3: Convenience of Online Shopping

Yet another advantage of purchasing a used car from another state is the convenience it offers. You can shop a massive inventory of vehicles and compare prices and options from the comfort of your own home, all in seconds. Otherwise, you would have to check local listings and travel to dealerships to browse a smaller inventory.

Con #1: Increased Complexity

One of the biggest disadvantages of buying a car out of state is that it comes with more complexity. You have to pay attention to the state laws and sales tax requirements. You should also make sure your new car is insured as soon as you purchase it.

Con #2: Extensive Research and Time Commitment

Buying a used car from another state can save you time and streamline your research, but it can be more time-intensive in some ways. You’re shopping for cars sight unseen, so you may need to put in more research time than you would with a local option. You’ll need to carefully examine photos of the vehicle and you may need to ask for additional photos from the seller. We also recommend getting a pre-purchase inspection before purchasing the car.

Con #3: May Be More Expensive

Shopping for cars in other states can get you a better deal than you’d get locally, but that may be offset by your costs to ship the car to your location. That's because you will have to pay money to get the car to your home.

One option is to fly to the car’s location or drive a rental car, drop it off and drive your new car home. In this situation, you'll have to cover the cost of your transportation and any lodging needed. You might also have to take time off from work to travel.

Shipping is a convenient option that saves you travel time, but it can add to your expenses. For instance, cross-country car shipping may cost you a few hundred dollars if your car is within 500 miles of your home and you use an open carrier. Meanwhile, if your car is more than 2,500 miles away and you use a closed carrier, you may pay closer to a few thousand dollars.

Tips for Buying a Car Out of State

Whether you’re looking for out-of-state vehicle options for a larger inventory or you’ve found that perfect vintage model, you can avoid the potential drawbacks of shopping for a car in another state with some smart planning.

Look at a Car's History Report Before Buying the Car from Out of State

One of the first steps in buying a new or used car out of state is to obtain an up-to-date copy of your desired vehicle's history report. This report will contain maintenance information, recalls, accidents, and red flags that may affect your decision or influence negotiations.

For example, you may also find out about any title issues the car has, like a rebuilt or salvage title that indicates the car has suffered a serious accident, flood, or fire. While still a good option, a vehicle with a rebuilt title will be worth 20 to 40% less than an equivalent vehicle with a clean title.

In addition, if the vehicle history report shows that the car title has liens, they will need to be satisfied before you transfer it or transport it to your home state. If you don’t take this step, you could be legally responsible for them.

Get a Car Inspection Before You Buy the Car

Any used vehicle should have a pre-purchase inspection before you agree to buy it, and the same applies to out-of-state vehicles. Look for reputable local mechanics to perform the inspection, not the mechanic the seller recommends.

The inspection ensures that all the car’s major systems and components are in good condition and operating properly, such as the engine, brakes, transmission, suspension, and steering system. If problems are revealed with the inspection, it’s an opportunity for you to walk away from the deal or negotiate a lower price.

Understand the Necessary Emissions and Safety Tests Required by Your Home State

The emissions and safety tests your vehicle requires will be based on your home state, not the state where you bought the vehicle. Before you make any plans, contact your state’s Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) or visit the website to find out what inspections are required.

For example, some states may require odometer, emissions, or safety testing. If your car fails, you will need to get these repairs taken care of before it can be registered and driven or shipped to your home.

Register Your New Car ASAP

Once you've purchased your car, you'll need to take the following items to the Department of Motor Vehicles to register it:

  • Inspection certification,

  • Your driver's license,

  • The bill of sale,

  • Proof of your address.

You might also have to submit a form verifying your vehicle's identification number. This process allows you to register the vehicle in your name and at your home address.

Some states have time limits for registering a car in a new state. Usually, it’s within 30 days of purchase or you incur fines. You’re on your own with a private seller, but an out-of-state car dealership should be able to help with this process.

Get the Car Insured Before Traveling

The car will need to be insured by your current auto insurance company – or a new insurance company – before you can legally drive it or have it shipped to your home. If you’re getting an auto loan for the car, your lender will likely have insurance requirements to protect their collateral.

Some insurance companies will cover a new car for a short period before it’s officially added to your policy. If you don’t have that option, or you don’t currently have auto insurance, you need to go through this process to make your car legal.

Pay The State Sales Tax

Part of the vehicle registration process is to pay sales tax on your vehicle. This will be the same sales tax percentage your state charges for other goods, not the percentage of the state where you’re buying the car.

Dealerships often collect sales tax and provide a receipt that you can show your local DMV. This isn’t the case with a private seller, so you will need to pay the sales tax when you register the car.

How to Ship a Car from Out of State

If you don’t want to drive your new car home, an auto transport service can help with shipping options. Some services offer cross-country car shipping if your vehicle has to travel thousands of miles, but if you’re only in a neighboring state, you can save with state-to-state shipping.

Use a car shipping calculator to find out how much shipping will cost you. A reliable calculator will take into account information like the distance between you and your car, your car pickup date, and even your car's size to help you make an informed decision

Whether you choose enclosed transport or open transport will also affect your shipping price. Enclosed transport is most appropriate for classic cars and other vehicles you want to be protected from the elements. Open transport doesn't provide this level of protection, but it’s more cost-effective for many shipping customers who just need a vehicle sent from point A to point B.

How We Can Help with Auto Shipping

Buying a used car out of state? Looking outside of your local area offers a lot of advantages, including saving time and money while accessing a wider inventory of vehicles. However, the process can be more complex and involves a lot of potential headaches.

The last thing you want to do is offset all those benefits with high shipping costs and a lot of stress. At Nexus Auto Transport, we can help you ship your car to another state safely and efficiently. Contact us to learn more about our services and schedule a shipment today!